Small businesses that generally have small staffs and less manpower can benefit from unified messaging (UM) more than any other size of business. In most industries, a small business is defined as one that has fewer than 500 employees and makes less than $7 million in annual revenue, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Budget constraints are a significant small business hurdle.
Information technology has benefited the way organizations conduct business. Technology is commonly implemented into most business operations and functions, with one of the most common being business communication. Businesses use websites, email, text messages, chatting, and other forms of technological communication channels to transfer information to managers, employees, and the public. Although this technology has lowered operating costs and often increases business viability, a few disadvantages exist with this technology; for example, consumers attempting to contact a business but unable to reach a human being may become frustrated by electronic communication methods. Employees may also see electronic communication as impersonal if they only receive messages from managers or other employees through email. Email can also create confusion, requiring employees to seek more feedback than normal compared with more personal communication methods.
So what is the solution? To get started into the less expensive and more personal world of communications, small businesses should invest in UM tools. This allows the following:
- Efficient communication – Users can communicate more efficiently by having access to all communications at one time and being free to share, forward, or manage them in the way that's most convenient or effective for the given communication. For example, a salesperson is on the road and, due to safety concerns, is allowing calls to forward to voicemail instead of answering them. A customer needs to reach this salesperson and has tried his office number and cell phone but keeps getting voicemail. The client tries sending an email, but gets no response that way, either. Because the salesperson’s office is small, there is no receptionist to handle the call live. If this office had invested in UM, calls could have been forwarded directly to the salesperson’s Bluetooth on his mobile device, and he could have safely answered the call in real time. Instead, when the salesperson gets to the hotel, he has two voicemail messages and an email message that must be handled, as well as a customer who has grown irritated due to lack of responsiveness.
- A single inbox – Unified messaging can deliver all types of messaging and communication to a single inbox. The single inbox is easier to maintain and provides flexibility for users to manage and interact with all of their communications. Voicemail, email and fax messages can all be delivered to one mailbox, thus saving users time by going to one place to check and respond to messages. The salesperson is now at a hotel preparing for tomorrow’s meeting. Lucky for him, his office has now installed UM, and once he gets to his Wi-Fi-enabled hotel room, he can check all of his messages: voice, fax, and email, all from his email box. Depending on how he prefers to work, emails can be read out loud to him or voice mails can be converted to text. Furthemore, he won’t have to run down to the hotel business center to receive faxes because they pop right up in his email box.
- Cost savings – Merging streamlines the communications administration and consolidates the infrastructure onto fewer physical servers, thus saving money for the enterprise. Prior to this company aggregating messaging via UM, it had a voice messaging system, a fax server, and an email server. Since UM, many of these servers are now consolidated, thus saving time and money on hardware, installation, programming, and maintenance
- Access from anywhere – Unified messaging provides alternative methods of accessing communications. By merging email, voice, fax, and other communications, users can get voice messages in email, have email dictated over the phone, or access communications via the Web.
Providing UM to smaller businesses gives the business a professional facelift, limits lost communications, improves customer satisfaction, and reduces costs for hardware and administration. VARs should show their small business customers the benefits of UM and emphasize the simplicity of routing calls, accessing any type of message, and having messages delivered in the simplest manner for their clients.
Are there additional UM topics for small business that should be addressed in this forum? Please comment below.